Road car restoration: AC Aceca Bristol

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Jim Stokes Workshops Ltd restored one of Donald Campbell’s old cars. Manager Tim Patterson outlines the finer points

When an ex-Donald Campbell AC Aceca came to us, the plan was to repair the ashframe that supports the bodywork at the rear. It quickly became apparent, however, that the car needed a bit more than that. Removal of the frame exposed some badly corroded tubular sections of the chassis. The restoration very quickly snowballed and the customer made a decision to go back to the bare metal.

This car was the 1954 London Motor Show demonstrator, which originally had a Ford Zephyr engine that Campbell replaced with the Bristol alternative. He also had the AC resprayed, like he did a lot of his cars, in the same shade as his Bluebird record machines. We set out to find the exact colour in which he would have had the car painted in the mid-1950s, when he was setting world water speed records in the Bluebird K7 hydroplane.

I got in contact with Bill Smith, project manager on K7’s restoration, and told him of my plan. He explained that K7 had been repainted after undergoing modifications for its later record runs in the 1960s, but some of the original paintwork remained under aluminium patches put over the hull where modifications had been made.

Because of their significance, these sections had been cut out and put on display at the Ruskin Museum at Coniston. Our customer made a donation to the K7 restoration fund and we sent a specialist to attain the correct paint code. Bill even gave us a few paint fragments, some of which were big enough for the customer to keep, while the smaller ones were ground up and sprayed into the roof.

The interior had been retrimmed in red and black at some point of the car’s life, but we realised that clashed with the blue paintwork. When we started taking out the seats, we’d found some grey tufts underneath the original trimming. The decision was then made to refit the interior with grey leather and carpet.

The lower edges of the aluminium bodywork were corroded where they had been rolled, which required cutting back so that new sections could be welded and blended in. The car had also clearly had a bump at some point and the nose was not a very nice shape where the grille sits, so we had that remade. The customer now has a car that, to the best of our knowledge, is pretty much as it would have been when Campbell owned it between 1954 and ’57.


Current projects

Alfa Romeo TZ2

With us for brake and minor body repairs, this 1967 car competed in the Targa Florio and is thought to be the last of its type built. Status: In the paint shop and leaving us soon to take part in a road rally.

Ferrari 250 GTE

Back for its first service after undergoing a full engine rebuild, this immaculate 1962 car has also had a brake servo refurbishment while here. Status: Awaiting collection prior to returning to its home in Switzerland.

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